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kottke.org posts about TV

The Song Exploder TV Series

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

Wow! Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder podcast is now a Netflix series! (For those who have never listened, Song Exploder features musicians telling the stories of how their songs were created.) Check out the trailer above, featuring song explosions by Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, R.E.M., and Ty Dolla $ign.

Hirway says on Twitter:

I still don’t fully believe it but @SongExploder, a podcast I started in my bedroom!, is going to be a @netflix series.

If anyone at Netflix wants to talk about kottke.org becoming a series, let me know!! It can be about literally anything and everything. (Hey, we’ll call it “Anything and Everything”! The wheels are already in motion…)

The Trailer for Season Two of The Mandalorian

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2020

So admittedly I was not the biggest fan of the first season of The Mandalorian — I don’t particularly care for westerns, space or otherwise, and in terms of the off-piste Star Wars tales, preferred Rogue One and even Solo to Mando’s adventures. But there is something compelling there and because I was indoctrinated in the ways of The Force as a child,1 I will watch the new season that starts on Disney+ October 30.

  1. I am not Force-sensitive myself, but I like to watch those who are.

Tiny World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

Apple might be a $2+ trillion company, but in the TV world they are still relatively small potatoes. Perhaps it’s appropriate then that the company’s first entry into the nature documentary space dominated by BBC and Netflix is Tiny World, a series featuring some animals who have carved out lives in our massive world by going small. You know, spiders, toads, pygmy marmosets, insects, rodents, fish. The series is narrated by Paul Rudd (I love the ageless Rudd as much as anyone but would have loved to hear Ze Frank in this role) and premieres October 2nd on Apple+.

Works of Fine Art (feat. The Simpsons)

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2020

Simpsons Fine Art

These mashups of fine art with The Simpsons are entertaining, but this one featuring Bart Simpson’s iconic blackboard subtly replaced by Cy Twombly’s 1968 chalkboard drawing Untitled (New York City) — perhaps the ultimate “my kid could have done that” piece of modern art — is a little bit of genius.

Challenger: The Final Flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2020

From Netflix, Challenger: The Final Flight is a four-part documentary series about the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.

Incorporating never-before-seen interviews and rare archival material, this series offers an in-depth look at one of the most diverse crews NASA assembled, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first private citizen in space.

The series debuts on Netflix on Sept 16.

Season Four of The Crown Introduces Margaret Thatcher & Lady Diana

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 21, 2020

This is a teaser trailer for season four of The Crown that really lives up to its name. We know that Gillian Anderson is playing Margaret Thatcher (!!) and Princess Diana makes her first appearance in the series (played by newcomer Emma Corrin), but we don’t really get to see either of them clearly in the trailer. Which is frustrating but definitely gets me excited for its premiere on November 15th.

Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2020

Elena Ferrante's The Lying Life of Adults

The English translation of Elena Ferrante’s latest novel, The Lying Life of Adults, is due out at the beginning of September and is available for preorder (Kindle). Here’s the synopsis:

Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.

Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.

The Guardian and the Washington Post have reviews of the Italian version of the book. And Netflix has already announced that they’re producing a TV series based on the novel; here’s a short teaser:

The series is being made by the same folks responsible for HBO’s My Brilliant Friend series (based on Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels), which has been outstanding in its two seasons so far.

Entire Series of “First Person” by Errol Morris Now Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2020

Filmmaker Errol Morris has uploaded the entire two-season run of his 2000-2001 TV series First Person to YouTube for free viewing: season 1 playlist, season 2 playlist. Each of the show’s 17 episodes is a one-on-one interview with someone who Morris finds fascinating, shot in the style that would find a wider audience and greater critical acclaim in The Fog of War two years later.

In the first season, Morris interviewed Temple Grandin about slaughterhouse design:

And Tony Mendez, former espionage expert for the CIA, whose work was the subject of the 2012 film Argo:

In season two, he profiled Josh Harris, one of the first internet celebrities:

Again, you can find every episode of First Person on YouTube: season 1, season 2.

Update: There’s an episode of First Person that has not been uploaded to YouTube: the one about Tanya Corrin (more on her here). That episode is also not listed on Morris’s site. I wonder what the story is here? (thx, @endquote)

TV Intros Recreated Using Only Stock Footage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2020

Matthew Highton is recreating the opening credit sequences of TV shows using only stock video footage. Here’s the intro to Friends and (my favorite) the Duck Tales intro:

He’s also done Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Happy Days, The Young Ones, and the OC. Check out the entire playlist on YouTube or his thread on Twitter.

Live TV Coverage of the Apollo 11 Landing and Moon Walk

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2020

Apollo 11 TV Coverage

Fifty-one years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon and went for a little walk. For the 12th year in a row, you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk on a small B&W television, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser today, July 20th, and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT):

4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts
4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon

4:20:15 pm - 10:51:26 pm: Break in coverage

10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts
10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon
11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew
12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21)

Set an alarm on your phone or calendar!

This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done online…here’s what I wrote when I launched the project in 2009:

If you’ve never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I’ve watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I’m struck by two things: 1) how it’s almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth.

In 2018, I wrote about what to watch for during the landing sequence.

The radio voices you hear are mostly Mission Control in Houston (specifically Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who acted as the spacecraft communicator for this mission) and Buzz Aldrin, whose job during the landing was to keep an eye on the LM’s altitude and speed - you can hear him calling it out, “3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.” Armstrong doesn’t say a whole lot…he’s busy flying and furiously searching for a suitable landing site. But it’s Armstrong that says after they land, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”. Note the change in call sign from “Eagle” to “Tranquility Base”. :)

Star Trek: Progressive, Sexist, or Both?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2020

For io9, Eleanor Tremeer digs into the complex and sexist legacy in Star Trek’s progressive universe. From Uhura on, Star Trek has always pushed the boundaries of how women were portrayed on TV, particularly in science fiction, but in some aspects, the shows have also been undeniably sexist.

With Yar gone, the women of The Next Generation fit more snugly into classic feminine molds, as Marina Sirtis reminisces. “They got it right, they cast a woman as the security chief. But Denise left, and the two remaining women were in caring professions. So it was ok to be on a spaceship as a woman, but you had to be a nurturer.” Speaking to io9, Gates McFadden (Crusher) is scathing about the few times the women would be thrown together, not to work together, but to gossip. “If the ladies did have a scene together we were dressed up in leotards talking about men. We weren’t sharing opinions on a medical issue!”

Over the ensuing years, Troi and Crusher would slowly get more screen time, as their characters became more nuanced, but they would rarely get the chance to break out of their nurturer molds. And with Crosby gone, security chief wasn’t the only position that needed filling. “I was never supposed to be the chick on the show, the va-va-voom. That was supposed to be Denise,” Sirtis told us. For as progressive as Star Trek tried to be with its women, every show has something in common: There has to be a hot chick.

To understand why this was the case, you have to look behind the scenes and at who was making the casting and plotting decisions.

If the entertainment industry is dominated by men now, this was even more the case decades ago. Star Trek has had a few female writers and producers over the years-DC Fontana wrote for The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine; Jeri Taylor got her start producing The Next Generation before co-creating Voyager, to name just two immensely influential staffers. But, as Sirtis points out, Star Trek was a franchise created by men: “Even though we were writing a show about the 24th century, apart from Jeri Taylor and Melinda Snodgrass [another writer], the writers and producers were all men. Twentieth-century men. So it’s not gonna be that far-reaching.”

We could argue, of course, that Star Trek was a product of its era, but the actors were aware, at the time, that the show could be better. This aggravated Gates McFadden, as early as season one of The Next Generation, as she revealed to io9. “I wondered, did the women exist for the men to react to? Even Wesley just reacted to his mother, not seeking out her counsel-for counsel he sought out the men on the ship.” Coming from academia, McFadden was used to a collaborative creative environment, but she didn’t encounter that behind the scenes of The Next Generation. “Jonathan Frakes could bound into the producer’s office and put his feet up, but I couldn’t. That wasn’t acceptable.”

I’m rewatching The Next Generation right now and have been paying a lot of attention to how the women on the show (both the recurring cast and various single-episode characters) are portrayed. There’s definitely improvement after the first season or two, but there’s just so much on the show that’s off and obviously written primarily by and for men.

Anyway, if you’re a Star Trek fan at all, you should read Tremeer’s whole piece.

Trailer for Season Four of The Handmaid’s Tale

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2020

Season four of The Handmaid’s Tale is coming to Hulu in 2021. I found season 3 to be increasingly outlandish — not in terms of the depicted fascist policies and behaviors of Gilead (Atwood has stated that in her books & the TV series, all events have a precedent) but just in terms of “How the hell is June still alive and working in Gilead?!” Also, the use of closeups of Elisabeth Moss’s facial expressions to convey emotion was overused to the point of cliche. But I will definitely give season four a shot, especially now that we know where the series is ultimately headed.

Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

Netflix has put When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s 4-episode mini-series about the Central Park Five, in front of their paywall for free viewing. Here’s the trailer:

The 2013 Ken Burns documentary The Central Park Five is available to watch on the PBS site and also on Amazon.

As previously noted, DuVernay’s 13th and Selma are also both available to watch online for free.

Now Streaming - Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

For 35 years, activist and archivist Marion Stokes recorded television news coverage on VHS tapes, amassing a collection of hundreds of thousands of hours of footage. Matt Wolf has produced a documentary about Stokes called Recorder: The Marian Stokes Project.

For over 30 years, Marion Stokes obsessively and privately recorded American television news twenty-four hours a day. A civil rights-era radical who became fabulously wealthy and reclusive later in life, her obsession started with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 — at the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle. It ended on December 14, 2012 as the Sandy Hook massacre played on television while Marion passed away. In between, Marion filled 70,000 VHS tapes, capturing revolutions, wars, triumphs, catastrophes, bloopers, talk shows and commercials that show us how television shaped the world of today and in the process tell us who we were.

A mystery in the form of a time capsule, Recorder delves into the strange life of a woman for whom home taping was a form of activism to protect the truth (the public didn’t know it, but the networks had been disposing their archives for decades into the trashcan of history) and though her visionary and maddening project nearly tore her family apart, her extraordinary legacy is as priceless as her story is remarkable.

The trailer is above and you can watch the whole thing for free on PBS for a limited time.

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas HBO Series Is Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2020

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas was an HBO documentary series created and hosted by writer and comedian Wyatt Cenac. The entire run of the show is available for free on YouTube (and on the HBO website) for the next month, but of particular interest is the first season, which was dedicated to the problem of policing in America. The first episode of season one, embedded above, explores police training (specifically “warrior training”) and how it contributed to the death of Philando Castile in Minneapolis. The season’s other episodes cover community policing, police abolition, use of force, and abuse of power.

Cenac says of the show:

The show’s not perfect. You can see when my eyes are reading a teleprompter because HBO’s legal team needed me to say something very specifically so they didn’t get sued. But the show wasn’t about being perfect or even about being right. It was about trying to have a dialogue.

When the smoke clears, we’re still going to need to find a way forward. And we’re going to have to find a way to do it together because this country is a dingy apartment and we’re all just a bunch of Craigslist roommates that have to find a way not to eat each other’s cheese.

See also Ava DuVernay’s Selma and 13th Available to Watch Online for Free.

John Oliver on Policing in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

For the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated his entire show to policing in America. It is worth watching as a summary of how we got here, what the obstacles to reform have been, and where we can go from here.

We’re actually not going to focus on Trump tonight nor are we — unlike some in cable news — going to dwell on the incidents of looting that occurred, except to say if you said the name “Macy’s” more than you’ve said the name “Breonna Taylor” this week you can very much fuck off.

Likewise if you asking why spontaneous decentralized protests can’t control every one of its participants more than you are asking the same about a taxpayer-funded heavily regimented paid workforce, you can also — in the words of this generation’s Robert Frost — suck my dick and choke on it.

The Simpsons Parody of Succession

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

In the “couch gag” preceding The Simpsons episode that aired on May 3, 2020, they did a pitch-perfect parody of the opening title sequence of Succession, complete with the iconic theme song. (via @omcfarlane)

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2020

Have a Good Trip is an upcoming Netflix documentary about tripping on psychedelics, like a celebrity/comedy version of Erowid’s drug trip report database.

Mixing comedy with a thorough investigation of psychedelics, HAVE A GOOD TRIP explores the pros, cons, science, history, future, pop cultural impact, and cosmic possibilities of hallucinogens. The film tackles the big questions: Can psychedelics have a powerful role in treating depression, addiction, and helping us confront our own mortality? Are we all made of the same stuff? Is love really all we need? Can trees talk?

The celebs telling their trip stories include Sting, Sarah Silverman, Ad-Rock, and Rosie Perez. I Laughed Out Loud at A$AP Rocky’s short anecdote in the trailer. I hope we’ll hear more about his musical rainbow when Have a Good Trip premieres on May 11.

My Recent Media Diet, The Pandemic Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

Well, it has been awhile. I have not done one of these since late December. First I was away for a few weeks and then, well, you know. I’m not even sure if anyone wants to read this sort of thing right now — I barely wanted to write it — but I know a lot of people are stuck at home, looking for stuff to watch, read, and listen to. Plus, keeping the media diet going feels normal, at least a little.

If you’re strapped for time/attention, my top recs are Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Devs, Exhalation, Little Women, Unbelievable, Future Nostalgia, The Overstory, and You’re Wrong About.

Devs. Fantastic. I loved every minute of this gem. (A)

Unbelievable. Based on a true story. Excellent performances by Toni Collette and (especially) Merritt Wever. (A)

The Report. Also based on a true story. The Bush presidency still does not get the credit in terms of the harm it did, and continues to do, to America. (B+)

Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Killer collection of tech/science stories. (A)

Slow Burn (season 3). Not just about Biggie/Tupac, but about 90s hip-hop & the cultural reaction to it. (B+)

AirPods Pro. Wearing these feels a little like the future. (A)

Aeronauts. Perfectly fine. (B)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Straight-up masterpiece. (A)

Don’t F**k with Cats. How on Earth did I not hear anything about this case when it originally happened and why is it not more widely known? A media-obsessed wanna-be serial killer caught by online sleuths? It seems like fiction. (B+)

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. This maybe would have been better at half the length. (B+)

1917. Technically stunning but I never truly got involved in the story because I was trying to see where the cuts were. (B+)

Icarus. Almost unbelievable where the story goes in this. (A-)

Little Women. My choice for the best 2019 movie. (A)

My Brilliant Friend (season 2). The second part of the first season set a high bar to clear, but I’m loving this season so far. (A)

Jojo Rabbit. Like Inglourious Basterds directed by Wes Anderson. (A-)

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Fittingly finished this on the plane to Vietnam. (B+)

Anthropocene. Typically excellent look at the impact of humans on the Earth by Edward Burtynsky. (A-)

Frances Ha. Baby Adam Driver! (B+)

Catch Me If You Can. Spielberg (and DiCaprio) at their most entertaining. (A-)

Edge of Tomorrow. Love this movie. An underrated gem. (A)

The Overstory by Richard Powers. A wonderful novel about trees and the natural world. (A)

Titanic. A masterclass of blockbuster filmmaking and storytelling. (A)

Good Place (season 4). Loved the ending to this. (A-)

Outbreak. Contagion. Deep Impact. 2012. The Core. I Am Legend. I have been watching all of the disaster movies. They are terrible and I love them. (A/C-)

The Aftermath. The ending of this felt random, a gotcha to the audience rather than the natural end to the story. (B)

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. I had medium hopes for this, but the Seth Rogan episode made me laugh harder than I have in months. (B+)

Watchmen. The first three episodes gave me this-is-gonna-end-like-Lost vibes and then they announced there wasn’t going to be second season, so I stopped watching. (B-)

The Farewell. Wonderful. (A-)

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Started slow but finished strong. Keep your eyes peeled for all of the sci-fi references. (B+)

Birds of Prey. This was mindless. And not in a good way. (D)

McMillion$. My main takeaway was being aghast at how much time, energy, and money the FBI put into this case, which one of the lead investigators only pursued because it was fun. (B)

Star Trek: Picard. I would have voted against bringing this beloved character back (for fear they’d ruin it) but I enjoyed almost every second of this. (B+)

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. Another great book from Larson. The Battle of Britain is surprisingly relevant to these pandemic times. (A-)

Onward. Not my favorite Pixar, but solid as always. (B)

Future Nostalgia. Love this album, not a single weak song. (A)

The Mandalorian. It took me too long to realize that this was a western. I don’t care that much for westerns. (B)

Star Wars Episodes I II III. I needed some true garbage to watch about two weeks into my self-quarantine. These movies are mostly terrible. (C-)

You’re Wrong About. I’ve mentioned this podcast before, but You’re Wrong About has become essential listening for me. The OJ and DC Sniper series are both great, and their episode Why Didn’t Anyone Go to Prison for the Financial Crisis was excellent and surprisingly didn’t really mention the actual crisis at all. (A)

Iron Man. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The Avengers. The kids and I are rewatching all the MCU movies in release order. Some are better than others. (B)

Tiger King. I watched the first episode and…is this anything more than just gawping at yokels? Does this documentary have anything important to say about society or is it just reality TV? (C)

LBJ and the Great Society. A fascinating look at a brief moment in time when our government worked and how that happened. (A-)

The Case of the Missing Hit. You’ve likely heard this instant-classic episode of Reply All by now, but if you haven’t, it’s worth the hype. (A-)

Tempest in a Teacup. Outside/In talks to Charles Mann about a passage in 1491 about passenger pigeons, which suggested that their famous abundance was a relatively recent occurence caused by the decimation of indigenous populations in the Americas by Europeans and their diseases. (B+)

The Living Room. The episode of Love + Radio that inspired the Oscar-winning The Neighbor’s Window. (A-)

Simulcast. Tycho’s instrumental companion album to Weather. (B+)

Minority Report. This was cheesier than I remembered it. Hasn’t aged well in some ways. (B)

Pelican Brief. So 90s. But I’d forgotten the star power of Denzel and Julia Roberts, even in a mediocre movie. (B)

Murder on the Orient Express. Rewatch. Branagh sure does chew the scenery, but it is fun to watch. (B+)

Gemini Man. Action. Sci fi. Mostly forgettable. (B-)

Yesterday. Cute flick. (B)

Monsters University. This was the only Pixar movie I had never seen. And now I have. (B)

Dark Phoenix. Slightly more entertaining than I was expecting. (B)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

From Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History, a series about the history of genetics based on Mukherjee’s book of the same name. Here’s a trailer:

The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

This looks great, especially if this clip about Nancy Wexler’s crusade to find a cure for Huntington’s disease is representative of the whole:

In 1968, Nancy Wexler’s mother was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease - Huntington’s. Facing a 50-50 chance of contracting Huntington’s herself, Wexler — a non-scientist — began an odyssey to find the gene that causes the disease. For three decades, Wexler searched for treatments but chose not to get tested. As time passed, she noticed changes in the way she moved. Finally, in early 2020, Wexler decided to face her fears.

Part 1 of the series is now streaming on PBS with part 2 set to premiere next week.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag Play to be Streamed Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Fleabag Play

A recording of a live performance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play Fleabag (on which the TV show is based) is going to be streamed online to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Said Waller-Bridge:

I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times. Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation. All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag! It’s for charity!

It’s available in the UK & Ireland right now and will appear on Amazon Prime in the US on April 10. (thx, caroline)

Update: Here it is on Amazon — “all proceeds, outside of taxes, go to charities supporting those affected by COVID-19 pandemic”.

HBO Is Streaming Dozens of Shows & Movies for Free in April

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Wire Chess

During the month of April, HBO is streaming dozens of shows, documentaries & movies for free via HBO GO & HBO NOW. Shows include The Wire (my personal fave), Succession, VEEP, The Sopranos, True Blood, Six Feet Under, and Silicon Valley. HBO usually offers a few things outside their paywall, but never anything this extensive.

Samuel L. Jackson: “Stay the Fuck at Home!”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

On Jimmy Kimmel the other night, F-bomb maestro Samuel L. Jackson read a new short story/poem by Adam Mansbach (author of Go the Fuck to Sleep) called Stay the Fuck at Home to promote safe behavior during the pandemic. You can skip to about 6:00 to hear the story:

The book isn’t available for sale, so Jackson, Kimmel, and Mansbach are asking people to donate to Feeding America.

Some Good News with John Krasinski

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Krasinski thought it would be worthwhile to pause and take note of some good news happening in the world in this new YouTube series. As Andy Baio noted, this hewed so closely to Ze Frank’s The Show that I kept expecting to hear him call viewers “speed racers” and ask us to make an Earth sandwich. Keep your eyes peeled for a small The Office reunion with a certain regional manager via Zoom.

Stream Ken Burns’ Baseball Documentary Series for Free on PBS

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

It would have been Opening Day for baseball here in the US. Since we’re without the actual thing due to COVID-19, Ken Burns asked PBS to allow people to stream his 18-hour documentary series on baseball from 1994 for free (US & Canada). Here’s part one:

(via open culture)

Trailer for Season 2 of Ugly Delicious

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2020

Chef David Chang, who I guess is in the process of being not a chef now in the way that Bourdain became not a chef, is back for season 2 of Ugly Delicious, a food/travel/culture show on Netflix. From Eater:

Like the first season, this one promises to “use food as a vehicle to break down cultural barriers, tackle misconceptions and uncover shared experiences,” per a press release. The four episodes — only half the number of episodes as season 1 — will focus on food made for babies and children (“Kids’ Menu”), the vast world of Indian food (“Don’t Call It Curry”), the appeal and mystique of steak (“Steak”), and the varied cuisines that encompass what’s generalized as “Middle Eastern” cooking (“As the Meat Turns”).

I really liked season 1 of this show and I am not going to lie, I would love to somehow be involved in season 3. David, I have a passport, love to eat, and can talk about *gestures around at website* almost anything. Hit me up!

FRONTLINE - Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From PBS’s FRONTLINE comes Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, a feature-length documentary investigation into Amazon and its founder.

Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, he has built a business that is without precedent in the history of American capitalism. His power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.

One of the 10 key takeaways from the film is how deliberately Amazon attacked the publishing industry:

“Amazon took over a large market share of the publishing industry very, very fast,” James Marcus, a former senior Amazon.com editor, tells FRONTLINE — a situation that he says prompted publishers to realize, “‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re our partner, but they now have the beginnings of a boot on our windpipe’.” Inside the company, the team had launched a strategy that some called “the Gazelle Project,” because they’d heard Bezos wanted them to pursue publishers the way a cheetah pursues a sickly gazelle. “Well, you don’t go after the strongest,” Randy Miller, who ran the European book team, says of the strategy. “He’s like, ‘The cheetah. The cheetah looks for the weak, looks for the sick, looks for the small.’” That way, by the time it comes to take on the publishers at the top, “the noise has gotten back to them. They’re going to know this is coming, and chances are you may be able to settle that without a full-on war.”

Here’s a trailer but the whole thing is available online, embedded above and on YouTube.

How Miles Davis Made “Kind of Blue”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From the feature-length documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool that’s debuting on PBS’s American Masters next week, this is a short clip about how Miles’ masterpiece, Kind of Blue, came together in the studio.

Miles Davis didn’t provide sheet music for his musicians during the recording of his iconic album “Kind of Blue.” He said that “I didn’t write out the music for ‘Kind of Blue.’ But brought in sketches ‘cause I wanted a lot of spontaneity in the playing.”

Here’s the trailer and a couple of other clips from the film. (via @tedgioia)

Normal People TV Series

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2020

The BBC and Hulu are producing a 12-part TV series based on Sally Rooney’s book Normal People (which I excerpted here). The first trailer is above and I have to say, color me intrigued. (via the recently relaunched recs)

Darth Costanza

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2020

The premise is pretty simple and there’s no need to oversell it because you can imagine what this is going to sound like going in and it delivers perfectly: George Costanza’s father’s voice dubbed over Darth Vader’s dialogue in Star Wars. Serenity now!

(Quickly: Luke = Jerry, Han = George, Leia = Elaine, Chewie = Kramer. Does that even work? (Obi-Wan = Uncle Leo? Is 3PO Newman?))